Friday, May 31, 2013

One Year After My Fall Down Stairs, and What I Learned

Back on the Bike and getting Stronger
May 9th came and I did mark the occasion with a ride while recently in Tulsa.  I was riding around Downtown when I stopped in the new Lee's Bike Shop right in the heart of The Blue Dome District.  That's when I spied and picked up the Oklahoma Jersey, which had just arrived and were coming out of the box there in the shop.  I paid a bit too much for it - and the ditsy sales girl keep telling me, "Its one of a kind..." over and over.  Until I said, "Look.  This jersey I'm wearing (made by my friend Stef, and my favorite "Tucson" jersey) is one of a kind - but it sure didn't cost half of as much as this Oklahoma jersey..." "But its custom made, by a designer friend of the owner's..."  And I was like, okay okay stop with the pitch--its just basic computer software...  The owner, Mr. Lee himself I believe overheard a bit and came over.  He let me know that the money from the sale of the jersey was going to their charity.  And he did like very much my Tucson jersey.  But I digress, Gentle Reader of This Blog.  The jersey fit me perfectly, which is very rare, so I bought it.

Stairs are worn and uneven, and very slippery
May 9th, 2012, I was running an errand here in Downtown Lawrence.  I was going to be working in the evening, as it was finals week at Haskell, so I had the morning free -- and I was on my way to renew our car tags at the Douglas County Courthouse.  Going down the stairwell you see below, about a two thirds of the way, my foot slipped and I slammed down to the bottom of the floor.  I heard a loud "SNAP" like a big tree limb breaking and said to my self, "No --oh no, no, no..."  Then a very sharp pain in my leg, like a spear, came over me like a wave.

When one of the women working there rushed over to help me, I told her, "I think I broke my leg..."  Then I remember cold sweat pouring out of me, dripping down my face, and pooling on the floor all around me.  Another woman, whom I found out had been an ER Nurse, said, "He's going into shock - call an ambulance!"

This woman sat next to me and talked to me to keep me calm, as I was kind of going in and out of a funk.  I was able to get my cell phone out of my backpack, with my papers for the car, etc. - and gave her Rico's name and number.  I heard the ambulance coming, and mostly I tried very hard to keep from puking my guts out.  Then the Paramedics and Firemen were there, picked me up after we determined it wouldn't hurt me more, and carried me outside.  Once I was getting into the ambulance, one of the Paramedics was ready to give me a pain shot -- I don't know why, but I said no.  He radioed the hospital and said, "He doesn't want it."  Maybe it was some big-ass needle...

The ride to the hospital, a route I know well from biking everywhere, was about two miles.  I saw out the window of the ambulance The Eight Street Tap Room -- a pub Rico and I would go to, and where his band sometimes played shows.  I forgot for a second about what happened, and then suddenly realized what DID happen.  I feared surgery, pins, screws, metal bars, and stitches.  Doing research for physicians back at the Desert San in Tucson, I knew what was probably in store for me - and it would be ugly.  In fact it was sickening!  And - what was I going to tell Little Egypt?  Holy Shit!!! She was on her way for R and R from Kuwait in just a few weeks.  She would be pissed-off for sure! 
The remains of a cookie on the stairs the day I came and took this photo
A year later, I was having to be at the Courthouse again to renew car tags.  I took these photos for you.  As you can see, the stairs are worn and uneven.  You'll also see that somebody was eating something or dropped something (food - looked like cookie crumbs) and its on the stairs -- WTF?  

I told the woman at the counter - she had not been there that day of my accident (the women who helped me were at lunch on this visit) but she did say they installed a light as a result of my fall.  You can see the light in my photo below...

Added lighting put in after my accident
I also have a close-up for you of the stairs down - you can see how uneven they are as they've been worn down over a hundred years of use.  The new light sure makes it a lot easier to see.  For me, I don't recall if the stairwell was particularly dark that day--but the black stairs could have been difficult to see.  Also, if you walk on them, you can feel how grooved and slick they are.

 Later, I was told that a Sheriff (Douglas County Sheriff) said that the stairs were fine and that there was nothing that I could have tripped or slipped on.  The basically claimed that because there were handrails, they were not liable.  

I would caution you, Gentle Reader, about making a statement after something like this.  Be careful.  Write out and read your initial statement about what happened.  Put in all the details you can remember -- and check everything.  Do not give them anything that they can use against you.  Be clear and speak clear.

I did get a call to make a statement to the Insurance Co. of the County.  It was recorded while I was being asked questions by the agent.  I stated that I wanted a copy of the transcript (I made sure to say first thing as the recording started) which was sent to me later - I forwarded the transcript to the US Military JAG at Ft. Leavenworth when insurance claims were being made.

What pissed me off when I got my copy was that the transcript was typed such that if you read it, I appeared to be illiterate -- a lot of "umms" and "ahhs" and little things to change the nuance of my words were in the pages.  I noticed that they typed the spelling of words differently so that it appeared I was mumbling or straining for the right thing to say.  This made me irate as I felt they had manipulated the transcript as to how the words appeared in print.  A judge reading it, and/or others, could be given the impression I was an idiot. Again, this tactic really got my blood boiling.

You may or may not know another ploy insurance companies use to grab-ass us as well - they send you an invoice with how much something costs, WITHOUT calculating what insurance will pay.  When you see the cost of something (like my ambulance ride of two miles costing $1800.00) you'll say to yourself, "My God but that is so expensive!  I'm not going to the doctor, or the hospital if I'm sick!"  That's why they put somewhere in the invoice, THIS IS NOT A BILL.  Again, its a tactic to get you to not want to use your benefits.  Many physicians and nurses complained to me about this practice while I worked at the Desert San in Tucson.

Recovery from a torn quadriceps tendon is like riding a 400 KM Brevet in Arizona -- it's long, bleak, unforgiving horrible weather, and just plain slow-going--but you are moving ahead.  I was lucky because my surgeon felt that I could recover just as good without the surgery.  He did caution me that recovery would be long - a year at the most.  Like the ER Doc, he said I was fortunate; very fortunate -- my strong bike legs saved me.  My leg could have shattered.  I could have broken my neck, and who knows what else.

I have to say, as I've said before, I was probably the most fit in my life - for a 50 year old fellow. 

Crutches, and then a cane - and physical therapy.  I'll give physical therapy a C - ...  First of all, the people are great, and they know their stuff - but they were very conservative.  I would hate to think what would happen to someone who was really hurt bad.  You go through the motions, and then you're done (money runs out for sessions) and you're on your own.

My first therapist was, in my view, afraid to touch people.  She seemed very uncomfortable laying a had on me.  She did a lot of measurements -- like I was specimen and not a person.  These were probably important stats to get, but really, Gentle Reader, the CAT Scanner they put me through had more bedside manner than she did.

Soon at her side was a young woman right out of school and on her first internship.  She was positive, confident, and not afraid of me.  "Trust your leg!" she would say, "YOU CAN DO IT!" At first I felt a bit embarrassed because while she helped me stand and worked with me, I couldn't help but notice her young vivacious body --  but she was confident and reassuring and focused on the business of me getting over my fear of falling and kept me on that track.  I did what she said and I trusted her completely.  In the end, after a few weeks, she was transferred to Baldwin City - I think it was because she and her mentor just didn't fit together. I give that girl credit for every time I stepped down a curb, or stood up from a chair -- or faced a flight of stairs going up or down -- I heard her clear voice in my head, "TRUST YOUR LEG!"

For me, I worked very hard to try and recover.  I went to the Jim Thorpe Fitness Center on my lunch hour - on crutches - to lift weights.  As I had the wife out of the country, and Rico on tour for the summer with his band - I had no choice but to try and build up my upper body strength so I could get myself out of bed, out of a chair, in and out of a car, and back into the world.

I had a fear of falling and I thought if I had some chest and arm strength, I'd be able to catch myself or lessen the chance of hurting myself.  I owe a lot to my personal trainer, Will, for pushing me to work hard, stay focused, and work toward a goal.

I road my bike to physical therapy (it took about two months before I could ride my Desert San bike to work at Haskell) which really impressed my new Therapist Dorian.  The hard part was getting on and off the bike of course, but once I got going I was good.  At first I had to leave one of my crutches at work, and the other at home.  The bike ride warmed up my leg so at therapy I was able to get more out of the sessions.  Still I felt that Dorian didn't want me to try to go to far to fast, which now that I think about it, I might have done.  I got rid of the crutches as quick as I could, but my awkward limp was frustrating me.  Dorian finally convinced me to use a cane--which I did reluctantly--and slowly I got a bit better.  I trusted Dorian after it was all said and done, because she was an athlete herself (a marathon runner).

Dorian worked on my leg, and Will with the weight training.  When Dorian realized I was working with Will, it was she that actually suggested meeting him and discussing what they could do for me together.  Will was cool with that and when they met, things worked out very well.  Basically I could lift weights without straining my knee...

Another good thing that came out of this meeting is that Dorian realized that the Jim Thorpe Fitness Center, on the Haskell Campus, was free--as its federally funded, its free and open to everyone, not just Haskell Students.   It's one of Lawrence's best keep secrets.  That was important to her because many of her clients could never afford a gym membership, so this gave them a chance to work out and keep getting stronger.

I think that's the important thing I learned - pain pills, physical therapy, etc.  will only do so much.  You have to really get back into it and work hard, and keep going, and not let up!  This you must do on your own.  At my age 50, this would be very difficult, and it still is, Gentle Reader - even after a year my leg hurts and is weak.  I still have trouble walking.  It feels like I'm limping but people say I don't look like I am.  People tell me I actually look much stronger.

I gained 20 pounds, and rather quickly.  It has taken almost a year, but I have lost the weight.  I did this by going to the gym and working out with weights, using an elliptical machine, riding my bike everywhere for errands and work -- and getting out on my road bike -- pushing myself.  Really the key is to exercise.  If I did more walking instead of biking, my legs would probably be a lot stronger --but I am a cyclists and walking takes too long.  A bike is perfect, quick, and efficient.

Bill of Big Oak bikes got me to thinking about calorie counting software.  A while back, I read in his blog that he had lost some major weight.  He had been like 260 pounds at one point, and if I remember right, was down to 180 and riding brevets.  I was talking to some of the blokes at Celebrity Spin class and one of the bike racers showed me an App called Myfitnesspal.  So I got it on my new phone and started playing around.

Quickly I realized I was eating way too many calories.  Second I saw right away my diet consisted of tons of salt and tons more sugar.   With the App too, I could see what foods were really bad for me and that packed all the calories.  So to make a long story short, I eat less and eat better food.  Also with Myfitnesspal, I can bank calories by doing exercise.  For example, if I limit my calories to 1560 a day (which is what the App calculated for me to go from 260 to 220) if I ride my bike down to the post office and back, I can burn about 400 calories.  So instead of having 1560 for that day, I have 1960 I can eat.  So what I'm doing (not always so well) is burning more calories than I put in, and over the course of a week, often I average that 1560 limit.  As of this writing I'm at 240, which is 20 pounds lighter since I started late March.

For me, I believe this is going to be the key to gradually getting some weight off, keeping it off, eating better, and staying fit.

Another thing I dealt with was depression.  Being overweight, physically weak, feeling frail, was just as hard.  I got stared at (I felt) because for a long time I struggle with a limp.  I have to say I feel much better...   Even after a long flight to Hawaii, I got off the plane and it was hard as hell to walk.  When we landed and got our bags, Little Egypt took off and got ahead of me during the shuffle of baggage claim and finding our rental car.  I had to walk down a long flight of stairs, and it was very slow going and difficult because my leg just didn't seem to want to work.  Two Hawaiian Police Officers standing at the curb saw me and they came over right away to assist me.  I guess I looked that bad.  Of course I was grateful for their concern, but that has never quite left my mind -- that guy looks like he's going to fall down those stairs -- and they came to save me.

I had support from my bike riding friends and I have to say many times, Bob, Susan, Laurie, and others waited for me, or turned around and came and pulled me back to the group -- or people just stopped and waited for me to catch up.   I had a goal of getting back on the bike, and when I did, my injured thigh went from being a thin stick to getting muscle back on it.  We're not talking 10 minutes in a therapist's office, mes amis, this was 20, 30, 40 miles on the road, pushing hard, and fighting Kansas headwinds.

Of course, Little Egypt is back, and we had our trip to Hawaii -- I am sure the sea and the beach and the cool winds of Hawaii were on her mind while she was in Kuwait.  She had a great vacation and me too.  I was able to do the hikes on the Big Island with her with no trouble - we opted for the 5 mile trails rather than the 10 mile trails we both would like to have done - but we did it!  We just got out there and moved!

Well, if you made it this far, thanks for reading and thanks for visiting my blog.  I feel like in some way the ordeal is behind me and the process complete!

Allure Libre!  Cheers!  Bruce

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Perry Lake Super Course

Fun People I Ride With
I'm not one of those people who like to drive to a workout.  I also don't like to drive to meet up for a ride - usually I like to ride to the ride.  Everyone in this group, called the Retro Riders - a great bunch of people by the way - wanted to meet a Perry Lake and ride the race circuit.  I decided that I'd have plenty of time to meet everyone by 11 o'clock, so I headed out from The Little House, to ride the 11 miles to Perry Lake and our rendezvous. 

Well first of all, it had been awhile since I'd been out to the Lake.  I way under-estimated the distance to the parking lot where I was gonna meet up with the gang - and I got a flat on the way out.

I did  ride Hwy 24, West toward Topeka.  Not the safest road but the fastest road.  There was not a lot of traffic, so that was good -- but a crosswind and head wind made it hard in the openness of the Kansas River Breaks.  And to make things worse, since the drought last year, the ground got so dry that it sank and shifted.  A lot of the road had broken off or sank, mostly the little bit of shoulder (and I can tell you that the strip of pavement I had to ride on is only shoulder-width) such that I had to mostly ride on the Hwy.  But as I said, I got a pinch-flat on the front wheel and had to retreat to the side of the road and up into the old cemetery to change the flat.

This put me behind schedule and I really had to haul-ass now to get to the parking lot on time.  When I got to the turn off of 24, I had to ride what I thought was a mile to the bait shop on Ferguson Rd, and then about a quarter mile to meet everyone.  Seemed longer (in fact was four miles to the bait shop and a mile to the parking lot) and it was up-hill and now I had a headwind full face to make matter worse.

Remarkably, I was only 20 minutes late.  There was every one's cars.  I know I could catch up because we've been riding and then stopping to let Chuck catch up (he's recovering from being hit by a car)  Trouble now was which way did everyone go?  Damn...  So I called Chuck's phone-- no answer. 

So then I called Laura's phone.  She had posted it to our group email for what ever reason--and to make a long story short, she picked up; the group had just stopped. 

"Laura, you don't know who I am, and we've never met, but I'm Bruce and I'm here at the parking lot.  I had a flat and I'm late.  Which way did you guys go - so I can catch up?"

Since I still have my Tucson phone number, I'm sure she was perplexed by who was calling.  I'd never just pick up my cell from a number I didn't recognize, and not while out riding...

"We've stopped, and we're just four miles up the road! I'm sure you'll catch up!"

So I sped off -- but the way they went -- on up Ferguson Rd, was all up-hill, and the headwind was strong if not stronger.  My spirits were sinking as I struggled to get anywhere fast, mes amis.  I was already beat up just getting out here.  I started telling myself I should have driven out like everyone else --what a dummy for thinking I'd simply ride out to the lake and join in...

After climbing, huffing and puffing, up yet another large hill on Ferguson Rd.  I spied John (the freakin' fast old man) speeding down the road opposite me.  He had come to pull me up to the group -  I was heading down-hill and we speed past each other, but soon, he was climbing after me as I was riding up yet another large hill. 

Even without saying a word, I jumped on John's wheel, and all I can say, Gentle Readers of This Blog, is that John and I hammered the circuit race course and we were flying!  I think we rode the five or six miles to meet the group averaging about 20 mph!  We were riding fast, and I stayed right on John's wheel.  He knew exactly what he was doing and adjusted his speed to keep me right in his slip-stream.

Very soon, but really felt like forever, we shot up to the group.  I was completely cooked.  I had noticed while we were speeding up and down on the rollers around the lake, that my arms and legs looked bright pink: I forgot to mention that with the headwind came clouds and the cooler temps.  I had not dressed warm enough...

Slowly I recovered, but staying in the pack, and getting my wind and wits back.  Damn but that was fun! 

Later I got convinced to get a ride back to town, saving me about 25 miles.  We all went to the pizza place in Perry, Kansas and had a fun time just talking and having a few beers.

Oh yeah, John is second from the right in the picture.  Laura, who picked up her phone is just to the left of me.  All these guys are about ten years older than me -- and they are fast!

Cheers!  Bruce

Clinton Lake Fast Ride

I did a fast ride out to Clinton Lake on a Friday last week.  I missed the Thursday group ride as I had a job interview (via Skype) So I headed out of town, feeling good, and wanting to get out and see what I could do.

The Big Farm
 We have had rain out here in Kansas, Gentle Readers of This Blog...  however, I don't see the farmers planting a corn crop so far.  Since 90% was lost last year because of the drought, maybe they don't want to take any chances -- so other stuff is probably going in the fields this year.

And I have to say, it was a rare day when there was NO WIND...  I mean usually I'm getting beat up out here in The Wilds -- but the wind was calm.  I made good time and covered the back road quickly!

The old barns are starting to show some age.  The Winter this year was long, cold and tough.

Normally on the Muffin Ride, we would turn left at the barn and head to Lone Star Lake.  Instead I'm going up and over the hill to Clinton Lake.  My plan is to ride to the Clinton Lake Store, go to the shore, and then head home back to Lawrence.  All in all, about a 40 mile ride.

An old and still prosperous farm, on the way to Clinton, Kansas...

German immigrants settled around here.  This church dates from about 1900.  It is probably not the first church -- as the farmers got more money and did better, they built bigger churches.

Clinton Lake
 Clinton Lake was a man-made lake created in 1980.  Its okay I guess.  Every body knows Clinton Lake, but the town of Clinton, Kansas, was important as a stop on the Underground Railroad pre-Civil War.  I know very little else, but Clinton, as well as Lawrence, were on the Underground.  I believe that is one reason members of Quantraill's Band wanted so bad to sack Lawrence -- which they did in August of 1861.  But those days are past - the lake was nice.  But as you can see, rain clouds crept in - time to roll back to Lawrence.

Clinton Store, since 1931
 I stopped in the store and the people working there were very friendly.  I bought a candy bar and Gatorade and chatted with them for a bit.  I was the only customer that day beside the mail carrier.  The store was old as dirt and had a lot of character.

Caught in 1965 in Montana
Again, with no wind to thrash me around, I sped home like a bullet!  It was a good day for a ride!  Thanks for coming by the blog!

Cheers!  Bruce

I've Been Riding, but the Blog Got Dropped

Downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma
May has been a busy month for me, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  I'm out riding the bike, but getting to the blog and up-loading the photos has been something I mean to get around too -- but I just get busy.  I went to Tulsa for an extended Mother's Day visit.  I'm glad too because I've been feeling pretty burned out and need to get outta town.

Tulsa just keeps getting better and better every time I visit.  I left there in the 1980 because there was nothing there for me--very conservative and narrow-minded people.  If you were different in any way, people looked at you with suspicion.  Instead of playing baseball or football, I played soccer.  Instead of being a stoner or party animal, I was a fencer.  When I got into high school, a lot of my friends were from Viet Nam -- newly arrived.  I was on the first unofficial soccer team in high school, and half of the guys were Vietnamese.  Great athletes and even better students!  I also found a place on the Tulsa YMCA Fencing Team.  Mostly a mixture of attorneys, graduate students, ballet dancers, and anthropologists--I was young and very impressionable--I also learned a mixture of French and Italian as the team was international, and often my lesson were in French, and after Friday Night Practice, we adjourned to a local pizza place near TU (University of Tulsa) which was more or less an international student hang-out--and drank beer.  I had a dear friend from Ireland, Lorcan Crosgrove, just a few years older than me (I was the baby of the bunch) that made me laugh until I cried.  I miss him terribly - he was killed in a plane crash in all places, Tucson - a few years before I moved there back in 1999. 

We frequented Arnies Bar, which you see in photo above.  Its location was on 15th Street and its since moved to the Blue Dome District.  But the sign above is the original...  Lorcan's brother owned the bar for awhile after Arnie died.

Woody Guthrie Archive and Museum, in Tulsa
 So what I'm doing is riding from my Mom's house (where I grew up) and following the River Park to the old rail line, now named Osage Spirit Trail -- I got some intel from a local bike shop -- and I'll ride about 50 miles round-trip.  I didn't go into the Woody Guthrie Museum; it just opened a few weeks before the photo.  You know while I was there taking the photo for you, mes amis, I actually had some tourists (I guess they were) ask me who Woody Guthrie was -- I was like, "Are you kidding?'

University of Tulsa McFarlin Library, circa 1897
University of Tulsa, or TU.  At first it was Kendal College, and then TU beginning in 1904.  I lived in the old TU neighborhoods for a few years when I was out of high school.  The University bought up a lot of those old houses and razed them for space -- new basketball arenas, etc.

Grandparent's house and my Father's childhood home - Tulsa, Oklahoma
My Grandparents moved to Tulsa in 1920 after they were first married.  The lived in a very little house next door to the one above.  When the owner of this house was moving for a new job, he sold this one to my Grandpa at very good deal.  I remember this house vividly as we spent a lot of time here as kids.  The pine tree is well over 100 years old, and I remember my Grandfather taking extremely good care to insure it stayed free of disease and damage.  I'm glad to see its still hanging on!

Osage Spirit Trail, which was old rail line through Tulsa Town
 This trail I'm on is off the main River Parks Trail, and I was told I could take it all the way to Skiatook, about 25 miles North.  It starts by going through some of the most affluent neighborhoods in Tulsa -- the old Oil Men's homes.  The it went through North Tulsa, which is where Black Tulsa loomed as a place never to go -- EVER!  Tulsa was a very segregated city even when I was growing up.  We were always told never to go to the North Side.  I think that was kind of sad because as I rode through North Tulsa, everyone was friendly and waved as the ran or rode by me.  I'd like to think that that way of thinking (just fear of not knowing anything about the people or the places on the North Side) has changed.

Sperry, Oklahoma
 I have to tell you, Gentle Readers, that in all my life I have never set foot in Sperry, Oklahoma.  I really had no clue where it was or how big.  As you can see, it is small -- that's main street.  With the bike trail going through, things looked improved.  You can stop and get a sandwich or a pop.  Also, the people I came across were very nice and they waved as I rode through town.

Through the Oil Patch and on to Skaitook, Oklahoma
 I'm on my way to Skiatook, and in this photo, I meet that rider up ahead, and we rode back together to Tulsa.  His name was Mike - we were the same age (51) and like me, he was visiting Mom.  He lived in Dallas, and like me, was pretty impressed with the bike trails.  I went to Edison HS and he went to Hale HS, so we hadn't grown up in Tulsa that far apart.  It was nice to have a tailwind for the ride home too!

Cheers!  Bruce